In The News

This monthly summary includes excerpts from Illinois in the News, a daily service provided by the University of Illinois News Bureau and other media search tools. This collection of recent stories focuses on engineering topics and faculty contacted for their expertise by print and broadcast reporters around the world.

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December 2016 media appearances


ChicagoInno (Dec. 28) -- HackIllinois, a student-run hackathon hosted by Illinois, is heading into its fourth year this February. But this year students are trying something a little different, and unique among collegiate hackathons – they’re challenging participants to create open-source projects.

Social media partnership

Fortune (Dec. 21) – Facebook’s hardware development division on Wednesday announced a new partnership with Illinois, Harvard and 15 other universities intended to allow swifter collaboration on technology research projects. Also: Tech Crunch (Dec. 21), The Star-Ledger (Newark, N.J., Dec. 27).

Inexact computing

NextBIGFuture (Dec. 21) -- Computer scientists from Rice University, Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have used one of Isaac Newton’s numerical methods to demonstrate how “inexact computing” can dramatically improve the quality of simulations run on supercomputers.

Alien megastructure

Phys.Org (Douglas, Isle of Man, Dec. 20) – A team of scientists at Illinois – physics graduate student Mohammed Sheikh, working with professors Karin Dahmen and Richard Weaver – offers an entirely novel solution for a star’s irregular dimming. They suggest the luminosity variations may be intrinsic to the star itself. Also: Science Alert (Dec. 16), Physics (Dec. 19), Yahoo (Dec. 20), Inverse (Dec. 20), Daily Mail (UK, Dec. 21), Space Daily (Dec. 22), The Sun (Dec. 22), Tech Times (Dec. 22), Highly Cited (Dec. 22), International Business Times (Dec. 21), iTech Post (Dec. 22), Daily Galaxy (blog, Dec. 21), Quartz (Dec. 22), Fox News (Dec. 22), 14U News (Dec. 22), News Recorder (Dec. 22), Space (New York, Dec. 29).

Mind-reading robots

Science 360 (NSF, Dec. 22) -- Those who wish others could read their minds will enjoy a breakthrough technology out of the lab of Thenkurussi (Kesh) Kesavadas--his team has used brain computer interface (BCI) to control a robot. “The robot is actually monitoring your thinking process,” Kesavadas said. “If the robot realizes you saw something bad, it should go take care of it. That is the fundamental idea in manufacturing we are trying to explore.” Also: ScienceBlog (Dec. 22).

Physics Pioneer Goldwasser dies at 97

U.S. News & World Report (from The Associated Press; Dec. 17) –  Dr. Edwin Goldwasser, a co-founder of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and one of the world’s most prominent physicists who spent decades at Illinois, has died at the age of 97. Also: Chicago Tribune (Dec. 17), News-Gazette (Dec. 17), (Dec. 19)

Physics alumnus

Science (Dec. 16) – After emerging as a trade superpower, China aims to become a leading force in scientific research and applications. Due to the rapidly growing neutrino physics programs in China, Jiajie Ling, a postdoctoral researcher at Illinois who is now a professor in physics at Sun Yat-sen University, opted to take a position there with start-up funding support from the Thousand Talents Program for Distinguished Young Scholars.

High-performance computing

Forbes (Dec. 15) – Connecting two computers to make a faster one is the approach that has been used to create higher-performance computers for at least the last 50 years. Back in the 1960s, Dan Slotnick, a professor at Illinois, lashed together two Burroughs mainframes to make a faster computer, then connected two of those together, and again, until he got to 64 connected mainframes.

History of computers in education

Chronicle of Higher Education (Dec. 15) -- The Chronicle article, "The Digital Era: How 50 years of the information age transformed college forever," prominently features the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign--first for PLATO, and, later, Mosaic and the World Wide Web. Also: Daily Mail (London, Dec. 15).

Graphene quantum dots could reduce waste CO2

Nanowerk (Honolulu, Dec. 19) -- Graphene quantum dots may offer a simple way to recycle waste carbon dioxide into valuable fuel rather than release it into the atmosphere or bury it underground, according to new research published by an international collaboration of scientists. “If we can convert a sizable fraction of the carbon dioxide that is emitted, we could curb the rising levels of atmospheric CO2 levels which have been linked to climate change,” said Paul Kenis, professor and head of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Illinois. Also: ScienceBlog (Dec. 15), Phys.Org (Dec. 15), New Atlas (Dec. 18), The Engineer (UK, Dec. 19), Futurism (Dec. 19), Controlled Environments Magazine (Dec. 19), R&D Magazine (Dec. 19), Silicon Republic (Dec. 19), Tech Fragments (Dec. 20).

Swimming biobots

Science 360 (National Science Foundation, Dec. 15) -- Podcast featuring NSF-funded University of Illinois mechanical engineer Taher Saif, who combines living cells with nanomaterials to design swimming biobots.

Student startups

Chicago Inno (Dec. 15) – In 2016, Illinois universities doubled down on entrepreneurship. From Northwestern University launching two seed funds to commercialize research and invest in student startups, to Illinois’ growing ecosystem that ranges from central Illinois to Chicago, the opportunities and resources to start a venture while in school have only grown for Chicago’s youngest founders.

Materials lifecycle

WAND-TV (Dec. 15) -- For more than 15 years, Nancy Sottos, a professor of materials science and engineering, Scott White, a professor of aerospace engineering, and Jeff Moore, a professor of chemistry, have been collaborating in the Autonomous Materials Systems Group at Beckman Institute. Their work focuses on creating synthetic materials that can react to their environment, recover from damage, and even self-destruct once their usefulness has come to an end. Also: Engineering Materials (UK, Dec. 6), Phys.Org (Dec. 14), ScienceBlog (Dec. 14), ASEE FirstBell (Dec. 16).

Nuclear engineering

Dow Jones Business News (New York, Dec. 13) – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday ordered the development of a nuclear propulsion system for ships, describing the move as a response to the recent extension of sanctions against the Islamic Republic by U.S. Congress. Many nuclear-powered vessels are fueled with uranium enriched above 90 percent, according to research by Magdi Ragheb, a professor of nuclear engineering at Illinois. The use of any grade of uranium exceeding 3.67 percent enrichment would violate the nuclear agreement between the U.S. and Iran.

Automated transportation center

The Detroit News (Dec. 13) – The University of Michigan says its Ann Arbor campus will serve as the Midwest’s Center for Connected and Automated Transportation, a new project financed by a $2.47 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Six universities, including Illinois, will participate in the center, which will explore how communities can transition to connected and automated vehicles.

Computer research law

Vox (Dec. 12) – Two researchers, the University of Michigan’s Christian Sandvig and Illinois’ Karrie Karahalios, wanted to create a computer program that tests whether real estate websites discriminate against people by race. But when the researchers tried to conduct these tests, they realized doing so would be a crime.

CS rankings

Forbes (Dec. 7) – Companies eager to hire software’s best young talent usually congregate at campuses such as MIT,  Carnegie-Mellon, Berkeley, CalTech and Stanford. But HackerRank, a Palo Alto, California company that runs giant coding contests, has created an eclectic list of 50 other schools where all-star talent abounds, too. The U.S. had eight schools in the top 50, including Georgia Tech at #13 and Illinois at #14. Also: HackerRank (Dec. 8), Chicago Inno (Dec. 8).

Related story: Parent Herald (Dec. 9) -- HackerRank, a technology company, carried out a University Rankings Competition to determine which of the 126 computer science schools produce the top coders. More than 5,000 individuals participated in HackerRank's competition.The best coders in the U.S. hail from University of California, Berkeley, according to HackerRank's best coding school list. It was followed by the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Photonic crystal-enhanced microscope

Phys.Org (Dec. 7) -- Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have invented a novel live-cell imaging method that could someday help biologists better understand how stem cells transform into specialized cells and how diseases like cancer spread. The Photonic Crystal Enhanced Microscope (PCEM) is capable of monitoring and quantitatively measuring cell adhesion, a critical process involved cell migration, cell differentiation, cell division, and cell death. Also: ScienceBlog (Dec. 7), Science Daily (Dec. 7), Photonics (Pittsfield, Mass., Dec. 19).

Super premium gasoline

Science Daily (Dec. 7) -- In contradicting a theory that’s been the standard for over eighty years, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have made a discovery holding major promise for the petroleum industry. The research has revealed that in the foreseeable future products such as crude oil and gasoline could be transported across country 30 times faster, and the several minutes it takes to fill a tank of gas could be reduced to mere seconds. Also: Phys.Org (Dec. 7), ScienceBlog (Dec. 7), Futurism (Dec. 10), Tech Times (Dec. 10).

Hot hydrogen in Earth's atmosphere

Phys.Org (Dec. 6) --  A team of University of Illinois researchers has discovered the existence of hot atomic hydrogen (H) atoms in an upper layer of Earth’s atmosphere known as the thermosphere. This finding, which the authors report in Nature Communications, significantly changes current understanding of the H distribution and its interaction with other atmospheric constituents. Also: ScienceBlog (Dec. 6), (Dec. 7), Science 360 (NSF, Dec. 7), Space Daily (Sydney, Dec. 7), The Economic Times (India, Dec. 8), Times of India (Dec. 8), Jagran Josh (India, Dec. 8), News Nation (India, Dec. 8), Livemint (India, Dec. 8), (Dec. 7), News Nation (Dec. 8), Mumbai Mirror (India, Dec. 8), Science Alert (Dec. 9) The TeCake (India, Dec. 9), The Hindu (India, Dec. 10), Science World Report (Dec. 12).


Yahoo Finance (Dec. 2) -- NASA has selected 13 university-led proposals for the study of innovative, early stage technologies that address high priority needs of America's space program. A proposal by MechSE associate professor Carlos Pantano-Rubino, "Adaptive FSI of flexible parachutes under strong dynamic loading using strongly coupled shell mechanics and large-eddy simulation with analytical curvilinear hybrid meshing," was one of those chosen. Also: ExecutiveGov (Dec. 5), ASEE FirstBell (Dec. 5).

TSA PreCheck study

Chicago Tribune (Dec. 5) -- There is an easy way to reduce lines at the airport, increase security and save the Transportation Security Administration money, according to a new study by University of Illinois researchers: waive the $85 fee for frequent fliers to enroll in the TSA PreCheck program, which allows pre-screened, verified travelers to go through expedited security at airports. The study by computer science professor Sheldon H. Jacobson and graduate students Arash Khatabi and Ge Yu found that costs saved by frequent travelers using expedited security exceeded the cost of waiving their enrollment fees for PreCheck. Also: ABC TV-7 (Chicago, Dec. 5), Phys.Org (Dec. 5), ScienceBlog (Dec. 5), Los Angeles Times (Dec. 5), ABC Eyewitness News (Chicago, Dec. 5), Chicago Business Journal (Dec. 5), Triad Business Journal (Greensboro, NC, Dec. 5), Silicon Valley Business Journal (Dec. 5), VocaTV (Dec. 6), Smarter Travel (Boston, Dec. 6), ASEE FirstBell (Dec. 6), Chicago Tribune (Opinion, Dec. 8).

Transistor and laser development

Phys.Org (Dec. 5) -- In 2004, electrical engineering pioneers Nick Holonyak Jr. and Milton Feng at the University of Illinois invented the transistor laser—a three-port device that incorporated quantum-wells in the base and an optical cavity—increasing its capacity to transmit data one hundred-fold. Two recent studies by the researchers are expected to significantly impact the fundamental modulation bandwidth of the transistor and the laser operation for energy-efficient high speed data transfer in optical and 5G wireless communications. Also: ScienceBlog (Dec. 2).

Nano blood cells

United Press International (Dec. 4) – Researchers at Illinois and Washington Universityin St. Louis have created an artificial red blood cell that effectively picks up oxygen in the lungs and delivers it to tissues throughout the body. Earlier versions could capture oxygen in the lungs, but then would not effectively release the oxygen after traveling out to tissues and organs. A synthetic polymer coating developed by the study's lead researcher, Dipanjan Pan, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Illinois  appears to solve both these problems. Also: STAT (Dec. 2), Medscape (Dec. 3), The Street (Dec. 3), Bismark Tribune (ND, Dec. 4), CBS News (Dec. 5), (Dec. 5), Daily Mail (UK, Dec. 6), CBS St. Louis (Dec. 6), Medical Daily (Dec. 6), MINA (Dec. 6), (Dec. 6), ASEE FirstBell (Dec. 6), The Guardian (Dec. 6), Monthly Prescribing Reference (Dec. 8).

Election forecasting: What happened?

Communications of the ACM (Dec. 2) -- Many people continue to be shocked by the election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States. In this age of data analytics, professional pollsters and data scientists did not have their finest moment. While the past several elections have been more favorable to attempts to forecast outcomes ahead of time, that trend failed to hold in 2016. As forecasters attempt to understand exactly what happened, the data itself may hold vital clues (Article co-written by CS professor Sheldon Jacobson).

Social media: News or not?

NBC News (Dec. 2) – Last month, four students – including sophomores Mark Craft and Qinglin Chen from Illinois – created a plug-in called FiB during a hackathon at Princeton University. The plug-in, designed for Google’s Chrome browser, discerns whether links, status updates or images posted on Facebook contain credible or fake information.

UIUC seeding a Chicago tech network

Chicago Inno (Dec. 1) -- Although it's 135 miles away, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is responsible for developing the most entrepreneur alumni in the greater Chicago area. LinkedIn data showed as much earlier this year, putting UIUC ahead of DePaul and Northwestern. Meanwhile, a recent report by venture capital database Pitchbook affirmed that the school produces the most undergraduate venture-backed startups out of any Illinois university.

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